Facets of Lucy

Looking at the various side of a life


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Smooches

Heart

There is something about young love, the early fascination with each other, the magnetism you can almost touch between them.  But there’s something even more special about couples who have been together for years, who have layered the early fascination with a deep, shared history and strengthened the magnetism with an abiding trust in each other.  They have, in most cases, passed by the stage of the PDA (public displays of affection).  That does not mean that the affection is gone.

I’ve been collecting photos of couples who have been together for years .  Each was asked if they would let me take two photos, one of each kissing the other on the cheek.   This is not the raciest of PDAs and the results  showed some embarrassment, as their eyes met in shared humor at the request. The results, while not stunning photography, were humorous and warm insight into  relationships that have lasted.

To be fair, I’ll start with my better half and I.  Obviously, someone else took this picture but the result is what gave me the idea to collect these smooches shots. So, in time to look forward to Valentine’s Day, I hope you enjoy the Smooches.

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Lesson on a Snowy Day

It’s a snowy day today and they’re encouraging everyone to stay off the road.  I’ve been thinking about my grandmother lately and this cozy day inspires me to write about her.

My daughter, my grandmother and I

My daughter, my grandmother and I

I really only had one grandmother.  My other grandmother left the family when my father was only five.  He was raised by a step-mother who was our grandmother, until my parents divorced.  Apparently, that also concluded my grandparent’s relationship with us as well.

My mother’s mother was always there, however.  When my parents split, my mother did what a lot of women would do, she drove us to her parents’ house.  I hadn’t been there in a long time, if ever.  We walked into the kitchen where my grandparents sat playing cards with my great uncle and aunt and, I’m sure enjoying a drink or two.  My grandmother showed us around the house, helped us see where we would sleep and to settle in.

I adored my grandfather.  I have written about him time and again.  He was the best person I still have ever met.  My grandmother, who had 7 children and 31 grandchildren, was always on the move but never unkind.  She was just busy and didn’t enjoy children underfoot where my grandfather delighted in having grandchildren in his lap and willing to be taught.

Things I remember about my grandmother:  My grandfather didn’t think she knew how to handle money, so he made her save for things she wanted or needed via cards that banks used to offer that would hold dimes or other coins.  You saved your money on these cards and then used them.  I remember she got a new winter coat that way. Granddad even named someone else his estate’s executor, so sure he was that she would spend wildly or be misled.  I remember my grandfather did not like her to smoke, so she never smoked in the house but would often return home from errands or visits smelling like a chimney.  I remember she came to visit me in my college dorm and, after my mother left, sit back and lit up  (when one could still do such a thing). While he may seem harsh, my grandfather was actually very respectful and loving to “the Mrs.”, and expected the same from everyone else.

Nellie as a Young Woman

Nellie as a Young Woman

I didn’t know what made my grandmother “tick”.  She wasn’t a woman prone to long conversations – she always had too much to do.  She enjoyed crocheting.  She cooked a lot, but that may have been just because there were always mouths to feed. They had a small farm which every spring featured a huge strawberry patch.  She would use us grandchildren to pick the ripened fruit, one of my fondest childhood memories (Hello!  Pick two, eat one…)  Well, it was one of my fondest memories until I mentioned it to her in her later years and she said, “You damn kids only took the easy ones on top and I had to go back over them again”.  Crushed.   One thing she and I had in common was our love of old things – especially old photographs and books.  I inherited some of both when she passed in 1992.

Nellie (Back, Middle) and Family

I never knew my grandmother’s “people” as country folk might say.  I did hear she had relatives of some sort in a larger city about 4 hours away but I didn’t know who they were and they never visited.  So one day recently, I started digging through materials I have at home which is predominantly genealogy about my grandfather’s family.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  I found a letter from the Children’s’ Home Society of Virginia, dated March 13, 1958, addressed to her.  It said:

Dear Lucy’s Grandmother,

We have your letter of February 27 requesting help in getting a birth certificate.  You were born during the period when births were not   in this state and we do not have sufficient information in our records to have a delayed certificate filed for you.  However, I am enclosing a notarized statement which I believe will serve in most instances where a birth certificate is required.

Well, that was a kicker!  I had no idea she was ever in a “home”.   Behind it was the notarized statement which said, in part, “[She] came into the care of said Society at the age of six years and six months, and was said to have been born on November, 8, 1909 in Nelson County, Virginia.”  Six years old!  My heart ached for my grandmother.  Because I know this, too:  During the depression, my grandparents couldn’t provide for their children, so my mother and her siblings were also placed in a children’s home for a few years.  It must have broken her heart to have to do that to her own kids.

I dug deeper, needing to know more and wishing I knew enough when she was still alive to ask her questions.  But this is something she never mentioned.  Finally, I hit paydirt.  Well, it doesn’t fill in the softer questions but it certainly answered my main questions.  My mother had gone through a genealogy phase years ago and she had written up some information on my grandmother.  Let me tell you, you could flesh out a novel from this story.

Nellie (Grandma, can I call you Nellie?), was born to Samuel, age 49, who worked as a laborer at a nearby stone quarry and to his wife, Mary, age 46.  I was surprised by their ages until I saw the list of her siblings:

Samuel , born 7/18/1895
William Raymond, born 8/20/1897
Mary Elizabeth , born 8/18/1900
Lulu Mae, born 9/4/1902
Ellen, born 9/29/1904
Marie, born 9/23/1906
Walter, born 9/11/1911, died 9/21/1911

To remind  you, Nellie was born in 1909, making her the baby of a family of seven (not counting Walter who passed away  as an infant).

Tragedy struck the family, when Mary passed away on February 24, 1914.  But the final blow was when their father, Samuel, passed away on August 8th, just seven months afterwards.   I don’t know if there was any extended family but it doesn’t seem so because Nellie, six and a half years old and the youngest, and the others were put in the care of the Children’s Home Society of Virginia.  Nellie was placed in the Methodist Children’s Home in Roanoke, VA, and from there was placed in foster care with a family in a small town about 150 miles away.  Very little information is available but it seems unlikely  that they’d have been able to place seven children together.  It seems that Nellie remained with this family until she was 18.  At that point, she went to live with her sister, Mary Elizabeth who was 27 by that time, and brother-in-law  who lived about 45 minutes from the foster family.

Nellie's Wedding Day

Nellie’s Wedding . Day

This is the happily ever after part:  My grandfather was a good friend of Nellie’s brother-in-law.  He said that the first time he went over to his friend’s house after Nellie had moved in, he fell for her hard and right away.  But he was 10 years older than her and that was a big gap for an 18 year old.  So he was patient.  Well, he said he was patient but they were married on October 2nd, 1929 when she was almost 20 years old.  They were married until Granddad passed in 1991 at the age of 93.  Nellie passed on New Year’s Eve in 1992 at the age of 83.  Together, they raised seven children of their own, and had enjoyed 31 grandchildren and were getting to know all their great-grandchildren.

Discovering the loss and separation my grandmother faced in her early years gives me reason for more empathy for her and more respect for how she grew up and led her life.  I’d love to be able to contact the foster family to learn about her as a girl but doubt anyone who knew her would still be around.  I continue to be amazed by the people I know and meet.  We need to be gentle with one another because we all have baggage and backgrounds that others can’t know.  Nellie’s story may be a tragic one but she’s not alone in having sorrows to bear and most of us don’t wear them where they’re easily known.  And that’s my lesson on a snowy day.


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The Good Cousins

I come from a large family that I spoke of in my second post.  I’ll share again a photo of most of my cousins in front of my grandparents’ house some Sunday afternoon.

Family Photo

Family Photo

I did not have a lot in common with my cousins.  None were exactly my age; none lived in the same town as I did.  They’d lived there their entire lives; we moved close by after my parents’ divorce. Most of them did go to school together, making me even more of an outsider.  So with no close relationships, we drifted apart and I only knew what was going on in their lives through my mother.  As she grew older, I heard less until I couldn’t have told you anything about any of them.

The first time one came back into my life was after my mother had been moved to a nursing home.  She’d been there for over a year and was very unhappy. It was a beautiful facility that was horribly run, but that’s another post.  We were looking for a new place for her and this cousin contacted me.  She and her siblings have a band, and they perform for charities and had performed at many nursing homes in the area.  She gave us the name of one she was impressed by.  We went to look at it and my mother liked it.  She’s been there now for 3 years and it was a good pick.  The facility is not shiny and new, but the staff has no turnover, is truly caring and concerned and she feels at home.

Because my mother had “dainties” that she didn’t want ruined through the nursing home’s commercial laundry, my cousin who lived nearby, offered to do my mother’s laundry for her.  It was at this point when I named her “the good cousin”.  She was just so giving.  When I thanked her, she’d say, “Now you know you’d do the same for my mother.”  Would I?  I’d like to think so.  But I live four hours from my mother and my aunt.  I wouldn’t be tested.

My cousin and I began to communicate fairly often about my mom.  I get there every month but she was my “eyes on the ground” about how Mom fared in-between.  Her sister joined in the conversation and I got to know her, too.  She was also kind.  They became “the good cousins”.  I told them and they laughed.

Then I discovered this:  their baby brother, who had beaten cancer twice was in the hospital needing a heart transplant.  The cancer treatments had done damage to his heart.  He went through some tough patches and was to go through more long periods of hospitalization.  He is self-insured, being a small business owner.  The medical bills were astronomical.

I asked my mother if there was any fund to which we could contribute to help with the medical bills he was accumulating.  I don’t know if my question got them thinking or if it was already in the works, but a fund was started at a local bank.  To get it started, a local restaurant offered its premises to hold a fund-raiser.  They had the restaurant for 7 hours, from 2pm – 9pm.  Since the “good cousins” and their brothers have a bluegrass band, they know a lot of musicians and a lot of big-hearted musicians offered to perform. My husband and I attended and were deeply moved by how many people were there to perform, to contribute and to support.  Victor was still hospitalized, but was there via Skype.

Since then, their small town community has opened its heart to do anything they could do to help out this family. There have been quite a few fundraisers since the first.  Most have had live music but not all and they’ve built up quite a large fund to help Victor pay his medical bills. I suppose it might be a drop in the bucket by the time he has his heart transplant but the fund has given caring people a way to help and has given Victor a way to recognize how much support and love he has to get him through.  I’ve gotten to know “the good cousins’” brothers as adults, and they’re men of faith and family.  I am honored that they are family.  I’ve developed an appreciation for the depth and width of what the word “family” can contain.

By the way, at the latest fundraiser, there was a wonderful R&B/Gospel singer who performed an amazing set.  She also invited a sixteen year old rocker to join her in the song “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”.  If you want a taste of it, click below. And remember Victor in your prayers that he gets his new heart.  Thanks.

To watch on youtube, click here:  Jane Powell and Logan Stegall 02/17/2013


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Daily Prompt: What is the One Thing I Hope No one Says About Me?

I was raised by a woman who cared greatly what others thought about her.  My parents had divorced and she alone had custody ( a normal result at the time) so I give her credit upfront for raising 3 children alone.  But good or bad, our behavior was measured in large measure by possible public reaction.  If I received an award, accomplished a goal or did very well in school, there was no acknowledgement from her directly.  Rather, I would hear her brag about it to a family member on the phone or a neighbor or friend.  Punishment, though, was instant and direct.  I remember when I was little, that the use of dirty words resulted in getting soap in my mouth.   Other “bad” behaviors resulted in “the belt”.  That’s right. I would be hit on my backside with a belt.  You may have heard the classic parent line which accompanied spanking, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurt you.”  No child ever believed it, and even less so when the parent’s hand doesn’t feel the acceleration or pressure applied by the belt.  As I aged, the challenge was to display no reaction – no tears, no screams, nothing.   Once I got to college, I never moved back home, not even to the same town, again. When I had children, I swore not to raise them at all like I’d been.  I bought books which I studied and compared and came up with my own way to raise my children.  I’ve told them flat-out that I had no good example and, so, had to figure it out myself.  They’re all young adults and we have good relationships.

What’s the one thing I hope no one ever says about me?

All together now:  “You’re JUST like your mother.”


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Why I Can’t Wait For School to Start

Image property of Facets of Lucy

Property of Facets of Lucy

I am not a curmudgeon – let me just start with that.  You may judge me when you read what follows but I hope you’ll hear me out:  I’ve never been sorry to see summer vacation end. In fact, I threw a few parties over the years celebrating the first day of school with like-minded moms. It’s not that summer vacation isn’t fun; it is.  It’s not that I don’t love and adore all 4 of my children: I do.  It is instead that I have always LOVED school.  Is that weird?  Even as a child, I loved the smell of new textbooks and getting school supplies I was not a fan of school uniforms but I put a lot of effort in the” first day of school, no uniform required” outfit.

As my children came along,I guess I passed my enthusiasm along.  When they were young, my children and I even had a tradition of buying school supplies on the first rainy day in July.  They were so excited when that  day came each summer. The bonus was that we avoided the crowds shopping at the end of August.  In our neighborhood, we learned teacher assignments by mail.  Then, everyone rushed to the swimming pool to see their friends and play the “Who’d You Get?” game  (now you just post it on Facebook, I guess).  Every year, each of them got their pictures taken under a tree in our front yard.  Such fun memories, especially when they were little so the pictures had to show the design on their back packs.  Yes, the mornings were chaotic at first; it’s never easy to fall back into a schedule. But eventually, school fit easily back into the rhythm of the family.

Are you asking whether I missed them during the day?  Well, of course, I did but I enjoyed when they came home , too.  School, especially in the lower grades, offered opportunities for excited conversations.  In the summer, I basically knew what they did all day.  After school, though, I got the excitement of the day as well as what went wrong.

I loved college, especially, ever minute of it and so I didn’t cry there when we took them to school the first time, either. My husband and I had told stories of our college days and took them on college tours.  And then, of course, after the first one, each child had older siblings to tell them about school as well.  I’m down to my last two in college and, I swear, my 19-year-old waited for rain in July to buy school supplies. We’ve had fun together preparing for them to return and both of them know that I won’t cry when I say good-bye but that I’m supporting and loving this step as well.


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My Dear and Great Friend

“My Dear and Great Friend”.  So began a touching three page, hand-written letter.  It was addressed to my step-father, building on a friendship begun in a time of war.

If you are younger than a certain age (say 30), it is entirely possible that you have never written a letter.  At the rate things are going with the USPS, I suggest you try it soon.  Letters are a much more personal and permanent communication than an email, tweet or text could ever be.  For one thing, each person’s handwriting is uniquely theirs and even that varies by mood and purpose.  You see a woman’s love letter and even the loops in the letters say romance.  Watch that same woman write an angry diatribe at a politician, a  friend who did her wrong or a partner and you’ll see where the pen pressed down deeply in the paper, where her writing slants up or down and where the letters get bigger for emphasis. And a signature, unspoiled by the speed we sign our name at a retail checkout is a part of one’s identity.  Think about where else you see the word, like the phrase “signature style” – doesn’t that mean a style that is yours alone?

A hand-written letter is more than a communication, it is a gift.  Well-written, poignant, funny, angry – whatever, they are read and re-read, shared and kept to read again another day.  I have a love letter from an old boyfriend from when I was in high school.  Its very sweet and romantic, right up  to the moment when he blows smoke from a joint on a sand crab and it dies.  Well, he was young.  There’s a letter form a boy in college, apologizing for standing me up.  Truth be told, I was mad.  But this letter contained every trite phrase ever composed.  He didn’t mean it to be a joke but it made me laugh and I never looked his way again.  But the letter I kept and brought out for a good laugh when needed. One special letter came from my husband’s grandmother when she heard we’d gotten engaged.  Her letter was more than congratulations.  She shared the highs and lows of her marriage, her philosophy on making a marriage work (with special attention to the “modern woman’s emphasis on work” which was actually quite astute.  I still have the letter from the first politician (local) who wrote me to invite me to be an official member of his campaign.  There are letters from my grandfather – what a treasure!  Letters from my father who was stationed abroad and so missed my high school graduation.  Actually, as a child, I would write letters to my father wherever he was stationed and he, a frustrated would-be English teacher, would send them back corrected in red ink.  He corrected spelling and chided me not to use worn-out greetings like “How are you?  I am fine” as we were taught to do in school.  Yes.  In school.  Children used to learn how to write a proper social letter and business letter as part of their English lessons.

Letters offer more than memories; they are a way to track history.  Did you know that Churchill and Roosevelt kept up secret correspondence throughout World War II?  They have proven to be a valuable source to learn what these world leaders  were thinking.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were also great correspondents whose letters offer great historical insight. (Trivia: both died on July 4, 1826 within hours of each other.).  Letter writers don’t have to be famous to give us a look at history.  In my family, we have my stepfather’s correspondence during and after World War II.  Letters from home show the impact on the homefront. But the letters from friends he made overseas offer a different look into postwar rebuilding and shortages and how much the U.S. was admired and trusted.

With technology changing at a faster and faster pace, its an easy argument to make that, no matter how beautifully you write words and compose letters, emails, tweets, texts and whatever comes next to make these formats dinosaurs, its hard to imagine keeping them around in the same way.  Even if you keep print copies or digital copies, they won’t be as expressive as an actual letter.

If you’re even remotely interested, I have a challenge for you.  Get a piece of paper or two.  Its very hard to actually buy stationery anymore.  Write a hand-written letter to someone who is important to you.  It doesn’t have to be long but make it heartfelt.  Actually, send two. Send one to someone older than you who will be touched by your gesture and likely to write back.  You need the experience of receiving a letter as much as sending one.  and make the second one to whoever you choose, regardless of age.  If they’re younger than you, you’ll be giving them a gift they may never get again.  I swear to you I have no stock in the U.S. Postal Service.  This exercise will only cost you $.88 for two stamps.  But the letters will be, as they say, priceless.


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Consider the Middle Child

I am a middle child.  Have you read articles about how birth order affects personality and development and wondered how true and valid they were?  Growing up, I always felt that the middle position was the worst to be in.  I had an older sister who was the classic adored first-born but picked on me both verbally and physically well into our teen years.  I had a younger brother who was the apple of our mother’s eye.  Let’s put it this way:  When she was pregnant the first time, the only name they had ready was a boy’s name.  When a daughter was born, they scrambled to come up with something else.  Hopeful and confident, they approached the second pregnancy the same way. Once again they were disappointed and had to come up with a girl’s name.  Finally, on the third try, the SON was born. To say he was the golden child should seem obvious.  There were problems, though, that I think my sister and I noticed first: he had serious anger issues.  At 8 and 10, we figured out on our own how to hold him tightly until the anger passed.  Once he cried, we learned the worst was over. The parents accepted this years later.

Other issues resulting from being a middle child stung. I had no baby book.  When I asked my mother why, she laughed and said she’d been resting up between Big Sis and Little Bro.  I am sure she didn’t say that to be mean but to a child, it hurt and never completely healed.  There were only a couple baby pictures of me. As we got older, Big Sis, the first born, had huge fights with Mom. Oh, the fights they had!  I would go hide until they were over and try not to hear. Little Bro, four years younger than me, found drugs and petty crime while I was away at college.  Every time my mother called me, it was to complain about my brother, not to ask about me. She actually brought him to my college graduation as part of a plan she and my father had hatched.  My father took him to a military recruiting center after the ceremony.  My parents had both been military and believed it would bring structure and discipline to my brother’s life.  They were wrong but it was a step they took out of desperation and hope.

So, you can see why I thought it was terrible to be a middle child.  Then, one day, in a local paper, there was a column entitled, “If You Ask Me: Consider the Charm and Grace of the Middle Child” by Kim Masters.  All these years later, I still have it in my dresser drawer.  So, Kim, if you’re out there, thanks. Her column pointed out that first-born are raised in an experimental lab, subjected to “all the errors made by overanxious and misguided parents”.  The baby, on the other hand, has parents who, realizing that they’ve had their last child, spoil it from birth.  Ms. Masters says, “the child gets the idea, once shared by its oldest sibling, that it is the center of the universe.  Unlike the oldest, however, the baby rarely discovers the error of this notion.”  The middle child benefits from lessons parents learned on the first born, never has illusions about the position it occupies in the world, and learns that being pleasant and easy-going is the best way to get along in the world.  Many become diplomats and humanitarians, including Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and the Dalai Lama. “Ah-hah”, I thought. Clearly, my pay-off for my childhood was that I was destined for great things.

I have four children so at least two qualify as middle-children.  Do they have baby books?  Childhood photo albums?  You betcha.  Did I take issues about the younger siblings to the older?  No way.  Nor did I ever make the younger ones be subjected to the any on-going struggles of their big sibs.  I also think there are a lot of different factors that also go into the make up of a child’s personality, achievement and life pattern  I choose to believe this quote from Wallace Stegner in “Crossing to Safety”:

Talent, I tell him, believing what I say, is at least half luck. It isn’t as if our baby lips were touched with a live coal, and therefore we lisp in numbers  or talk in tongues. We were lucky in our parents, teachers, experience, circumstances, friends, times, physical and mental endowment, or we are not.

No one is trapped or defined by their birth order.  Its just one more influence on who we become and how we handle it is probably just as strong a factor. The article I found from Ms. Master’s showed me how to look at birth order differently and, freed, I found other paths to become who I was to be.